Business Maverick

Business Maverick

Jack Ma’s Ant Is Said to Target $225 Billion Valuation in IPO

A sign for digital payment service Ant Financial's Alipay, an affiliate of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., is displayed at a store in Hong Kong, China, on Tuesday, July 21, 2020. Billionaire Jack Ma's Ant Group is seeking a valuation north of $200 billion as it goes public in Hong Kong and Shanghai, people familiar with the matter said, kicking off a much-anticipated market debut for China’s leader in internet finance. Photographer: Lam Yik/Bloomberg

Billionaire Jack Ma’s Ant Group plans to file for dual listings in Hong Kong and Shanghai in the next few weeks, targeting a valuation of about $225 billion, people familiar with the matter said, in an effort to pull off the world’s largest initial public offering.

The share sales could raise about $30 billion in total if markets are favourable, said one of the people, requesting not to be named because the matter is private. The Hangzhou-based firm seeks to float its shares simultaneously on the Hong Kong stock exchange and the tech-focused Star board in Shanghai as soon as October, the people said.

Ant, which made about $1.3 billion in profit in the March quarter, is Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. founder Ma’s prized asset. It’s morphed from a fintech platform to an online mall for everything from loans and travel services to food delivery, in a bid to win back shoppers lost to Tencent Holdings Ltd. With data from almost a billion users of its Alipay app at its back, Ant is pushing broadly into financial services, delivering technology such as robo investing and lending platforms as well as building out its advisory business.

A $30 billion dual listing could mark the biggest debut globally, topping Saudi Aramco’s record $29.4 billion haul, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. At a valuation of $225 billion, Ant’s valuation would be bigger than Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley combined.

Ant’s plans including details of the share sale are subject to change, the people said. A representative for Ant declined to comment.

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Ant’s IPO will give another boost to Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Ltd., which has already seen a renaissance of Chinese tech listings after it relaxed rules in the wake of losing China’s biggest tech firms to New York. Alibaba, which owns a third of Ant, returned with a $13 billion secondary listing last year in Hong Kong.

China’s effort to build its own tech bourse in Shanghai underscores the geopolitical tension with Washington. A high-powered group of U.S. regulators said this month that stock exchanges should set new rules that could trigger the delisting of Chinese companies. Firms must grant American regulators access to their audit work papers in order to trade on a U.S. exchange, according to the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets.

The recommendations target a problem that has vexed U.S. regulators for more than a decade: China’s refusal to allow inspectors from the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board to review audits of firms that trade on American markets. A high-profile accounting scandal at Luckin Coffee Inc. this year has also elevated such concerns.

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